AT in TN: Campsite Southbound to Hampton TN at 321 – 6/10/17 – 12.7 Miles
Cathy and I were up and at ‘em at first light, itchy feet on the trail by 6:40 a.m. We opted to skip breakfast and eat at the next shelter, 3.8 miles away.
The tone for the day was familiar, hustling because we knew we were walking out. Nobody waiting on us, nobody holding the stopwatch, but it’s hard to resist the pull to the end where you can set that backpack down for good. In hindsight, of course, I shouldn’t have waited two hours to eat because I needed some fuel for the pace. Cathy doesn’t require stops as frequently as are good for me and she doesn’t like to stop for long periods of time or she gets stiff (me too). But when she is out ahead, she is considerate to stop for me to catch up, then I rest for maybe 5-10 minutes before starting again with her. She doesn’t make me go, it’s my own internal push. Someday when I grow up I will better monitor my resting and pacing.
On the uphill to the shelter we met several thru-hikers, cheery from a night’s rest and tackling the trail again today. Vandeventer Shelter is situated on a bluff looking out across Watauga Lake. The shelter itself has its back to the lake (to block the wind) but there are boulders to perch on while contemplating the commanding view, inviting hikers to linger over their morning coffee (but not much tent space so I was glad we didn’t push on to it last night). Three young men were still at the shelter, leisurely considering packing up and planning to hike to Damascus that day, 30+ miles – ah, youth!
We ate our belated breakfast and talked with these guys. One said he didn’t have much water and I told him where they would pass our campsite with its piped spring. Then another mentioned that he had no water at all. Cathy and I both had extra and filled up his water bottle (also topped off the others). How far is it northbound to Damascus? As we went our way southbound, Cathy overheard them talking about using Adderall to keep moving on the long days…
We saw a skunk sprinting down the trail today!
More flowers and green green green:
The AT rolls downhill from the shelter to Watauga Dam, teasing glimpses of the lake along the way. The last two miles down to the dam are knee-crunchers.
The increasing proximity to mankind triggers the not-unexpected-but-still-a-little-prickly feeling of dismay that the trail must pass through these populated areas. We navigated on and off of roads, in and out of trees, then a mile road walk to the top of the dam. There is a necessary balance to maintain for the privilege of hiking through the forest and respecting those who choose to live in the mountains. For example, we enjoy the goodwill of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which limits access to the road crossing the dam only to AT hikers, barring other visitors.
Watauga Dam creates power for the community and the beautiful lake, a popular draw for summer fun, swimming and boating.
Watauga Lake Shelter was closed for bear activity. Not surprising - it is heavily used because it is so close to a major road. I didn’t even go down the short side path to check it out. Besides, there was this slithery snake right on the main path. A snake and a skunk – a higher wildlife count than yesterday.
The trail closely followed the lakeshore in and out of tiny coves and we could see Shook Branch Recreation Area across the way, a beach filled with people on a hot day. A mere minute as the crow flies, but we were not crows so we took the long route, another mile.
I see the beach...
...and the beach sees me
Another day, another section, another state completed on the Appalachian Trail. Thanks, Cathy! Amen and pass the milkshake!
“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” ~Martin Luther